ASX: Mitsubishi’s snappy city SUV

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ASX: A Cute Pint Sized SUV From Mistsubishi

We tested the Peugeot 4008, the stable mate of the ASX earlier in the year and liked it very much. We thought it perfectly suited the active lifestyle with a rear cargo area is lined with material that laughs off wet clothes and leather-clad seating that wipes over after the weekend’s frivolity and is all shiny and new again.

The ASX is essentially the same car and as such, it has the same feel. The range tops out at a smidgin under $40,000 in a CVT auto 2.0L petrol or a manual 1.9L diesel. You can go all out and pay an extra 3 grand for the impressively named audio unit upgrade with gives a huge 710Watts of power through extra speakers including the subwoofer. It’s an expensive upgrade and is worth almost 1/10 the total value of the car. There are other gadgets as well but the top model is quite well appointed so buy it, and spend the difference on a long romantic getaway for two. That will score no end of brownie points with your better half.

OUTSIDE:

Similar, but not identical to the Peugeot 4008, the ASX shares doors but the front, rear and rear side windows are unique. The lines are simple but pleasing, with a wedge finishing high in the rear end as the waist line sweeps around and on to the tailgate. The height means the reversing camera comes in very handy. You would stand no chance of seeing behind you without it. As with most SUV’s the rear end is high enough to hide even large object from view but importantly allows you go gain valuable extra space when backing into a tight parking spot. Although the ASX is the smallest of Mitsubishi’s SUV’s it’s still a reasonably large car, don’t mistake compact for small. You sit high up so the tall doors give you good access to the seats without having to fold yourself in un-natural ways to get comfy.

There is a comforting solid quality feel to most Japanese cars now, and the ASX feels grounded and well built. Some models get side skits but it ruins your ground clearance and completely un-needed. Side steps do the same thing but at least they are useful. The rear hatch swings quite high but it’s perfect for picnics if you’re the kind of person who likes to sling a basket of goodies in the back on a Sunday arvo. Rather than sitting on the damp ground you can perch on the rear deck because there is a spot to rest your champers and nibbles.

The Front door handles also have small rubber pad which are used with the smart key system. Simply keep the key secreted about your person allows you to press the button to lock or unlocks the doors. With the key still secreted, you reach for where the ignition and turn it as normal and as if by magic the car fires up. The ignition key cover can easily be removed to start the car if your key battery fails. Most car makers have a button on the dashboard or centre console to start up.

INSIDE:

The interior feels like the Lancer which is well designed and functional. The quality is perfectly adequate for a car in this price especially when compared to offerings from other brands. Everything is where you’d expect it to be. The general feel of the cabin lends itself to weekends at the beach or at the cabin by the lake. There even neoprene options for seat coverings. It’s like sitting in a big wet suit, which I have to say, sounds rather sexy, but that’s enough about my weekend fantasies.

I rather like the utilitarian vibe throughout. There is no need of the flashy additions of the expensive offerings. We all have friends who paid lots of money for a top Jeep, Range Rover, Audi Q7 or BMW X5 and never take them off the road. They say they want the space for action stuff but what they are really doing is buying the lifestyle. In other words they pay the big bucks to feel outdoorsy but that’s as far as it goes. The car only leaves the bitumen to enter a gravel drive that’s been lovingly weeded by the gardener to press a button to enter the garage cleaned by a cleaner. Paying a bit less means you can afford to be a bit less precious, not that 40k (for the top model) is a small amount of money. You’re in the same ball park as the Rav 4 by Toyota and Xtrail from Nissan. It means you can go to the beach and kick sand about the place without being terrified your plush expensive carpet will be ruined. Can you imagine the average person throwing diving tanks into the back of a $140,000 X5? The most you’ll do is tow your horse float to the polo match in your Rangie. You’ll meet a couple of chums and have a quick sniff of brandy before your main course of champagne and canapés. The little AWD SUV’s will more likely be used to carry stuff about, and quite right too.

The new Mitsubishi infotainment unit has a nice quality screen and an easy to use menu. It’s big enough so as you don’t ruin your eyes while using it. You need the upgraded system if you want Satnav though. I used the old one on the Evo X but I’ve no experience it in Lancer or ASX but one can assume it’s the same unit. It certainly looks the same. The air conditioning is good too. It’s fully automatic so set and forget and you’ll stay cucumber-cool. We didn’t have any really hot days to test it but it coped with 28c days easily. As with all climate control systems you can operate this one in manual mode. Air conditioning systems can be a bit dickie in the summer sun, the very time you want super cold air. The first thing you should check is how efficient the climate system is. If it is no good on the test drive, it isn’t going to magically improve.

A subject worth mentioning again if the smart entry and start. It means you can leave the key in your pocket. There have a couple of times where the fob was getting low in the battery. It makes the system a bit cantankerous and it doesn’t want to unlock or demands you present your key mid trip. It’s not a problem unless your key is in your pants pocket and your round a tight bend at a set of traffic lights. Then it’s frightfully annoying.

All in all it’s not a bad package at all.

THE DRIVE:

2.0L 4cyl DOHC 16 valve MIVEC engine

5 speed manual transmission

Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) with INVECS III

Smart Logic and 6 step Sports Mode (optional)

Electric power steering

It’s a fun car to drive. It’s not quite the car-like experience that an X3 is but then the ASX is half the price. I drove both the CVT and Manual but for me the 5 sp manual was the best. The CVT sounds odd and feels even stranger. You never quite feel like you have full control over your vehicle as it continually hunts up and down before settling into cruise mode. There is no doubt in my mind that there are too many fully automatic transmissions that can do a better job. CVT seems a particular favourite of Japanese car makers for fuel economy.

The manual allows a competent driver to increase the revs before releasing the clutch to move off the mark quickly. The engine is a proven one and has long been used across the range. I’d like to see a low-blow turbo as an option on the top model tho. I know I say that about almost every naturally aspirated engine but these days that’s how a car maker gets more power without adding cylinders. A little extra oomph would make such a difference. The engine is willing and able and even when given a good workout returns respectable fuel use figures around 8l/100k.

The ride is softer than you might expect but this also means rough road conditions are ironed out. As in most SUV’s, even the small ones, the high driving position means a birds-eye view. Many prefer to sit above other vehicles which may also account for the ever increasing height of the vehicles on the road. Of course those drivers around you won’t be able to see in, through, or past you for that matter.

Handling is as you would expect from a tall vehicle. It’s meant to be driven leisurely so there is not point expecting to be an MX5 or 86.

THE CONCLUSION:

The ASX is well made and fairly well appointed with a look that is slightly funky. I’m suitably impressed with its handling to suggest it would suit most folk. If you like to sit high up and you need the space an SUV offers, then the price should be tempting. My only real gripe apart from the CVT auto was that the Hill Hold can be a bit savage when it lets go, but it’s something you can easily manage once you’re used to it. It’s attractive and roomy with enough gadgets to

In short it does what it says on the box.

 013 Mitsubishi ASX 2WD 5MT – $25,990

 2013 Mitsubishi ASX 2WD CVT – $28,240

 2013 Mitsubishi ASX 2WD Aspire 5MT – $28,990

 2013 Mitsubishi ASX 2WD Aspire CVT – $31,240

 2013 Mitsubishi ASX 4WD Aspire 6MT – $34,990

 2013 Mitsubishi ASX 4WD Aspire CVT – $34,990

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